Liao Yiwu is a Chengdu native and he recently escaped over to Berlin via the Horse and Tea Trade Route pathways of southern China. Reading his story today reminded me of a few things.
Ever since I have lived in China, I imagined my escape route. There are a few, but the Yunnan-Guangxi one is the best. I rode a bike across the border at Mengla and no one checked me. I even went to the massive casino there and played some Texas Hold-Em with cigarette-skinned northerners while I waited for my visa to China to come through. The visa they attached to my passport was a piece of paper. Handwritten. It lasted all the way to Chengdu where I turned it into an F visa. Those were the days …
This is a companion piece to ChengduLiving’s Portrait of a Chengdu Artist: Luo Fa Hui. Here I put together some excerpts from an interview back in October. Stay tuned next week for more Chengdu artist love, both here and at ChengduLiving.com
On China’s Future:
There’s hope. China’s is moving forward in a good direction, not moving inward like before. Now a lot of us have the opportunity to sit down with rich, powerful people. This is an historical trend, not something a political party can control, so that gives us a lot of hope. Slowly things are starting to change, slowly human rights and ideas are gaining respect. The level of freedom is rising and getting broader and broader. If I look at the changes of the past 30 years, at my own experiences of China then and now, there is no comparison.
Today I read Murong Xuecun’s speech given in Oslo. The things he described in his speech are clearly happening all around us and I have rarely, if ever, met a Chinese who will dispute much of what he said. In fact, most of the conversations that end up dealing with the woes of China are initiated by Chinese friends. I try not to start a China rant because all anyone really has to ask me is “Why are you here?” and thus ends the rant.
But Chinese don’t have that option. This is their motherland and that fact is at the core of what keeps people in line, no matter how much they complain online or with their friends. The whole society is constantly at work to bring the young and the rebellious back into the fold of acceptable behavior. Every facet of life is controlled by a burden of history that is backed up by proverbs and stories.